ACS: Trifluoro talks

The skies are leaden and we’re set for several days of rain. But the weather isn’t going to deter the thousands of chemists who’ve congregated here in Boston for this fall’s national ACS meeting. The technical program is particularly good this time round, so I’ve had some difficulty cherry-picking which seminars to attend.  Read more

BOSS: Minimal ‘enzymes’ for catalysis

There were many great talks yesterday at the Belgian Organic Synthesis Symposium, but as I have time to describe just one, I’ll mention Eric Jacobsen’s tour de force about hydrogen-bonding catalysis. This seems to be an area that’s really kicking off right now.  Read more

BOSS: Bottoms up!

Day three of the Belgian Organic Synthesis Symposium, and the heat wave continues. That means there have been plenty of excuses for conference attendees to drink Belgian beer, as the title of this blog implies. But we were also treated to a spectacular talk today by Kenichiro Itami, who presented (among other things) his latest research towards the bottom-up synthesis of carbon nanotubes.  Read more

BOSS: If you can’t stand the heat

I enjoyed the Belgian Organic Synthesis Symposium in 2008 so much that I decided to go to another one. So, here I am in Namur, capital of the Wallonian region of Belgium, where they’ve been having a mini-heatwave – and where my hotel room has no air conditioning. So, forgive me if this turns out to be a short entry, but it’s hard to concentrate on blogging when the temperature is 30 °C.  Read more

ACS: Afternoon with the chain gang

I’m not sure why, but the polymer sessions at ACS meetings always seem to be in venues away from the main conference centre. What do polymer chemists make of this, I wonder? Do they feel that they’re being hived off for some reason? Or do they actually quite like having a venue more or less to themselves? If there are any polymer people out there that would like to comment on this, I’d love to know.  Read more

ACS: Nanopower

There’s so much good stuff going on at the ACS meeting that it’s tough finding time to blog, so here I am catching up on yesterday’s talks. Let’s kick off by talking about a brilliant session on inorganic nanochemistry. Zhong Lin Wang described his work with piezoelectric ZnO nanowires, especially looking at how they can be used to make nanogenerators for powering devices. One of the latest developments is a widget that produces an oscillating current as it flexes, effectively acting as an AC generator – Nature Nanotechnology subscribers can read a paper about this here. Zhong Lin wowed the audience by showing how such devices could be built into a jacket for a hamster; when the hamster went for a run in its wheel, the animal’s movement generated electricity! (Nano Letters subscribers can see this here.)  … Read more

ACS: Beginning to see the light

Have you ever wondered how you would evacuate several thousand people from a hangar-sized conference centre in the event of a fire? Well, now I know, because all the fire alarms went off yesterday morning at the Washington Conference Center. I’m pleased to report that there was no mad panic (chemists, of all people, know how to respond to fire-related emergencies) but it has to be said that it does take a long time – the all-clear had been sounded before I made it to the exit. It turned out to be a false alarm, by the way.  Read more

ACS: Open to ideas

It’s the first day of the ACS meeting in a bakingly hot Washington DC, so I decided to dip my toes into the cool waters of chemoinformatics. One of my favourite talks was by Jean-Claude Bradley, who provided an update on his work using open notebooks. Jean-Claude points out that one of the advantages of Open Data is the way that it allows quick validation of results – because there’s no filtering of the data, then it’s easy for anyone to scrutinize any unusual observations. What’s more, if your data disagree with someone else’s, then it’s possible to work out what might have been done differently, potentially leading to useful new discoveries along the way.  Read more

Putting the chemistry into sci-fi: Episode 2

In my previous blog, I wrote about the lack of strong chemistry themes in science fiction. Here I’ll suggest a few resources and book titles for those who want some chemical spice in their sci-fi – maybe this will be useful for summer holiday reading.  Read more